Fox’s Sri Lankan jolly under scrutiny

Liam Fox's paid-for trips to Sri Lanka, revealed by LFF last month, are reported today in a BBC report into MPs' overseas trips paid for by foreign governments.

Our guest writer is Elliott Fox

Liam Fox’s paid-for trips to Sri Lanka, which were revealed by Left Foot Forward last month, are mentioned today in a BBC investigation into MPs’ overseas trips paid for by foreign governments.

The BBC, however, has overlooked an incident raised on our original story. In November 2009, Liam Fox spoke in favour of the Sri Lankan government in a Commons debate without mentioning he was in Sri Lanka the week before to attend the president’s party convention.

As Left Foot Forward said at the time, the incident occured amid rising allegations of war crimes perpetrated by the Sri Lankan army, and talks in Brussels of suspending a privileged trade agreement between Sri Lanka and the EU over human rights issues – which was indeed suspended last month.

Responding to Labour MP Mike Gapes’s concerns of a humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka, Mr Fox had said:

“As members of the European Union, we have to be careful not to lecture too much or give too few incentives in a country that is beginning to move very much in the right direction.

Three days earlier, he registered a visit to Sri Lanka from 14 to 17 November 2009, which was paid for by the Sri Lankan Development Trust:

“To attend the Sri Lanka Freedom Party national convention and for meetings with the President of Sri Lanka and the Foreign Minister.”

According to the MPs’ code of conduct, they must declare a financial interest if a foreign trip “might reasonably be thought by others to influence the speech, representation or communication in question” – this includes making a verbal declaration of interest when speaking during a debate.

UPDATE 22.47:

It has come to our attention that the third of Liam Fox’s trips to Sri Lanka in November 2009 was paid for by the Sri Lankan Development Trust and not the Sri Lankan government. It was therefore factually incorrect to say that the trip was at “the country’s expense”. However, Liam Fox did make trips to Sri Lanka in March 2009 and August 2009 which were, respectively entirely and partially paid for by the Sri Lankan Government.

The House of Commons’ Code of Conduct states:

“It is the responsibility of the Member, having regard to the rules of the House, to judge whether a financial interest is sufficiently relevant to a particular debate, proceeding, meeting or other activity to require a declaration. The basic test of relevance should be the same for declaration as it is for registration of an interest; namely, that a financial interest should be declared if it might reasonably be thought by others to influence the speech, representation or communication in question. A declaration should be brief but should make specific reference to the nature of the Member’s interest.

“In a debate in the House the Member should declare an interest briefly, usually at the beginning of his or her speech.”

Although Liam Fox registered the trips in the correct manner, he did not make his interest clear when he spoke in the House of Commons debate on foreign and commonwealth affairs and defence on November 23rd about Sri Lanka, other than to talk of his “long involvement in Sri Lanka”.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today. 

10 Responses to “Fox’s Sri Lankan jolly under scrutiny”

  1. Silent Hunter

    Hello?

    LFF seems to have also ‘overlooked’ something here . . .

    There were also an equal number of LABOUR MP’s caught out, but perhaps that needs to be swept under the carpet – a bit like the whole Baroness Udin corruption thing. LOL

  2. Shamik Das

    Silent Hunter, we have not shied away from attacking Labour sleaze – see yesterday’s report on Byers and my post on Margaret Moran.

    We have focused today on Liam Fox as we have previously investigated his links to Sri Lanka. Only now have the rest of the media caught up with this; it’s only fair for us to link back to our previous article on Fox.

  3. shadylad

    You suggest above, and link to your previous article, that Fox’s trip in November 2009 was ‘at the country’s expense – to attend the president’s party convention’, but this trip was not paid for by the Sri Lankan Government (according to the register)!

    So where are you getting your ‘facts’ from?

  4. Will Straw

    shadylad – The November 2009 trip was paid for by the Sri Lanka Development Trust but the March 2009 trip was paid for by the Sri Lanka Government and the August 2009 trip was paid for by both. So Liam Fox does have questions to answer about his raising business on Sri Lanka.

    http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/liam_fox/woodspring

    It’s also not clear who the Sri Lanka Development Trust

  5. Max p

    RT @leftfootfwd: Fox's Sri Lankan jolly under scrutiny: http://bit.ly/96Yk2x

  6. shadylad

    Will – that still makes what has been written above by Elliot Fox wrong.

    As far as I can see Fox was replying in a debate to a Labour MP who first raised the issue of Sri Lanka, he wasnt raising it for his own purposes.

  7. Elliott Fox

    Shadylad – the code of conduct says:

    “It is the responsibility of the Member, having regard to the rules of the House, to judge whether a financial interest is sufficiently relevant to a particular debate, proceeding, meeting or other activity to require a declaration. The basic test of relevance should be the same for declaration as it is for registration of an interest; namely, that a financial interest should be declared if it might reasonably be thought by others to influence the speech, representation or communication in question. A declaration should be brief but should make specific reference to the nature of the Member’s interest.”

    It does not matter how the issue was raised – as long as the MP is voicing an opinion in the debate.

  8. evidence based really?

    Will,

    Didn’t fancy blogging about any of the labour candidates on the list? Is focusing on the one candidate which is most convienant for you how evidence based blogging works? Do they not have any questions to answer?

  9. Is there any way out of the Fox-hole? | Left Foot Forward

    […] Fox’s Sri Lankan jolly under scrutiny – Elliott Fox, March 23rd 2010 Share | Permalink | Leave a comment Comments > […]

  10. Fox/Werritty Sri Lankan jollies come under fresh scrutiny | Left Foot Forward

    […] further reported, in March last year: Liam Fox’s paid-for trips to Sri Lanka, which were revealed by Left Foot Forward last […]

Leave a Reply